Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister yesterday refused to reveal what Bahamas Power and Light’s (BPL) base rate increase will be, noting he could not say much because the government is currently in “a quiet period”.
During debate on the Electricity Rate Reduction Bond Bill, 2019, Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis noted that “the bond [is] being securitized by the bills paid by customers and it would require an increase in the base rate”.
“I’m wondering how the party considered what proportion of a customer’s bill be dedicated for the purposes of the rate reduction bond,” said Davis.
Bannister replied, “I want to be very careful. I want to be very careful and I think Cat Island is aware of that. We are in the quiet period. I want to be very careful with respect to that quiet period.
“I want to be careful what I say and how I say it and that’s why I made a very general statement yesterday to seek to be helpful. And I’ve indicated as soon as that quiet period is over, I’m going to be happy to lay everything here that relates to policy and relates to what we’re going to do. Everything.”
The bill was tabled in the House of Assembly on November 6.
It aims to establish a legislative framework for BPL to raise $650 million through a rate reduction bond.
According to Bannister, $321.1 million of the funds raised will be used to refinance BPL’s debt, $28 million for solar installations on the Family Islands, $15 million to convert Family Island generation facilities to liquefied natural gas, $15 million for fiberglass cooling pipe replacement, $30 million for an advanced metering infrastructure project and $6 million for system reinforcement and customer connections.
He also said that $48.1 million will be used for 132-kilovolt transmission and substation upgrades, $34.9 million for line upgrades and extensions, $24.7 million for other substation upgrades and $14.3 million for 34.5-kilovolt line upgrades.
On Wednesday, when debate on the bill started, it was announced that the average household light bill will increase by $20 to $30 for roughly 10 months next year.
Englerston MP Glenys Hanna Martin described the increase as “morally wrong”.
“Could you imagine the member for Elizabeth says it’s stretching?” she asked.
“You think the person in Miami Street is going to believe it’s stretching when they are paying the same tax as billionaires in this country and millionaires? You think they think it’s stretching? He who feels it, knows it, Mr. Chairman.”
Hanna Martin called on the government to “reconsider an across the board tax”.
“You know, I think this is in line with what you’ve done already,” she said.
“You exempted VAT (value-added tax) already up to $300. There was some rationale for that. So, I’m inviting you to apply the same rationale to people at the bottom of the economic scale in this country and not tax them in the same way.”
Replying to Hanna Martin, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said, “The member made a statement that we will look at that group that needs more help than others and I will make a formal statement later on how we will support that group.”
The bill passed yesterday, with only two MPs – Davis and Hanna Martin – voting against it.